I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published May 14th 2012
Arriving at Wellington in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, you'll notice that you aren't greeted by the typical welcome sign. Instead, this country town has constructed a public artwork to mark the entrance into the Wellington shire and the turnoff to Wellington Caves.
Wellington Gateway Sculpture - the view from the road
The Wellington Gateway Sculpture isn't an artwork to drive by. You need to get out of the car and walk among it to truly appreciate all the details. At the centre of the piece is a podlike tripod tangled with metal vines, a wind-chime hanging in the middle, which is surrounded by stone forms with mosaics at their centre. Initially, it was planned that the tripod would have a sculpture of a sulphur-crested cockatoo sitting atop it, but farmers opposed its inclusion because they felt the bird symbolised the destruction of their crops.
Each of these elements has an important role in the sculpture's symbolic representation of Wellington's character. The skeletal feel refers to the fossils found in Wellington Caves, while the wind-chimes symbolise the cave's stalactites. The shape of the tripod conveys both the image of a sunset and that of a pod, which represents the fertility of the surrounding valley. The vines represent growth and the area's vegetation, while the mosaic panels each convey an element of Wellington's history and culture.
Another element of the Wellington Gateway Sculpture is the weathered effect that seems at odds with the fact the artwork was only constructed between 1993 and1995. This was an intentional element of the piece that was designed to mirror the sense of age and time in the nearby caves and the fossils found in the area. However the materials weren't new in the first place, with the work having been constructed from recycled materials. The central tripod was even constructed from girders recovered from the 1989 collapse of the 'Old Wellington Bridge'.
The Wellington Gateway Sculpture was designed by Frances Ferguson, with the help of a regional landscape designer, a glass artist and a metalwork artist. Ferguson also had the the assistance of the Orana Aboriginal Corporation and the local Wellington Shire Council and community. It was a combined effort that resulted in the magnificent and complex sculpture that you see today.
Very nice and accurate overview on this pioneering, regional environmental public artwork by the late Fran Ferguson - an outstandingly talented and generous of spirit, Central West NSW artist. (With the wonderful help of all those identified.) A courageous initiative by any Council and it is to be hoped that one day they will take the original design of Fran's and actually install a suitably scaled cockatoo on top of this sculpture, where it rightfully belongs to make good on the original intentions and visual integrity of the work itself.